Saturday, September 6, 2008

Still More Questions Than Answers With McJunkin Building Zoning Change

A reader writes in with their account of a phone call to the attorney representing the zoning change in the McJunkin Building:
"I called the law offices of Mr. Brendan Shiller to inquire about the notice to rezone the McJunkin building from a B1 to B3 category. In the notice posted, the letter signed by Mr. Shiller specifically state that the "applicant intends to use the subject property for commercial housing." I asked what this meant, and he was unaware of the "commercial housing" aspect of the application. I told him that the letter was signed by him and that he should be aware of the contents of the letter. He paused, and then said that they were "lazy" and somebody from the office had written the letter. I was shocked to hear this revelation. He then proceeded to tell me that he knew nothing about the "commercial housing" wording in the notice.
I asked then if he knew of any public meetings to discuss the change in zoning and he said "no". He told me that I would have to contact the zoning department about this. He insisted that a retail business was coming to this location.
My question is, how can an applicant not know what type of business or entity that he or she represents? How can he tell me one thing that is clearly contradictory to what the notice is saying? A reliable source informs me that once the application for rezoning goes to the zoning committee, it is a done deal. Only the Aldermen can change this position. Is this correct? We need as many people to request specificity to be clear what is being changed to accommodate the type of entity in this building. Where is the transparency of our leaders to inform the very public they serve?"


  1. So Counselor Brendan Shiller signed his name and his bar association credentials to a legal document to which the contents were UNKNOWN to him.

    The next logical question here is, Who is running the Law Offices of Brendan Shiller?

    If Mr. Shiller is unaware of the contents of letters WITH HIS SIGNATURE ON THEM, then someone in his office is IMPERSONATING an officer of the court.

    These are grounds for a misconduct review by the Illinois Attorney General.

  2. How do we follow up with the Attorney General?

  3. While it's hard to imagine that he is so busy he doesn't know or forgot about this, it's really common for clerks and paralegals to draft such rote documents for attorneys to sign. I'd guess that Maggie Marystone was the actual author (she has been working for him as a clerk), but even if this is technically improper, I doubt that the IAG or Illinois Bar would really care.

  4. Sounds like the alderbeast is hatching a new plan to provide housing for additional members of her voting base.

  5. whoa

    claiming he does NOT KNOW what specific business he is accommodating, while proposing to go from the most restrictive B zoning B1 to the most permissive B3, is a major red flag

    again, dear neighbors, anything you can do in a B is possible BY RIGHTS, no further public hearing or other public input, in the proposed B3 zoning, which includes all sorts of things you might want to have a say in as a community

    once this zoning change passes and you eventually learn of the exciting new tenant you will be told: there's nothing we can do, it's the law, it's their right

  6. hmmm

    that's funny

    Mr. Shiller is clearly representing a client with business before the Chicago City Council, yet has failed to register as a lobbyist with the City as required by law

    Chicago Board of Ethics List of Registered Lobbyists

  7. You can go the the ARDC web site and request an investigation of an attorney if you believe that he/she has engaged in unethical conduct (including allowing a non-attorney to practice law). It is common for staff to draft letters for the signature of an attorney, however, an attorney is REQUIRED to review the content and be fully aware of every document that he/she signs.

    Here is the link.

    ARDC Attorney Investigation

  8. We really need to see this application for a zoning change to B3 denied.

  9. You can say a lot of things about Brendan Shiller, but stupid isn't one of them.

    I don't believe someone who graduated high (first?) in his law school class would send out public notices without knowing what's in them. Nor do I believe he doesn't know what (his phrase) "commercial housing" is. Nor do I believe that he doesn't know the facts about the project with which his client has entrusted him.

    I especially don't believe - even if it were so - that he'd admit ignorance and laziness to one of his mother's constituents.

    What I do believe is that dear Brendan is trying to pull the wool over our eyes with deceptions and outright lies.

    When have the words "Shiller" and "housing" and "retail" ever been a hallmark of transparency? I remember a lot of extravagant promises about Wilson Yard having lots of retail, too. And it ended up all public housing. A Shiller denied it was so, and still is doing so today.

    Hard to believe they still think we're as stupid as to believe them.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly.

    I suspect Target could be extremely fussy about what retail goes into its planned development. If indeed Target is nibbling at the idea of having a store at Wilson Yard, they may have some influence about discouraging a zoning change in the next block over. It would be in their best interests.

    Anyone out there who has a more direct line to Target officials?

  11. According to the City of Chicago Department of Zoning

    17-3-0104-C The B3 district permits residential dwelling units above the ground floor.

    Please check out Title 4, 17, and 18 of the Municipal Code of Chicago for more information about what is permissable under zoning allocation B3.$fn=default.htm$3.0$vid=amlegal:chicago_il

  12. Maybe we should email Target about the proposed Wilson Yards plans and all of the violence that has erupted in our part of town. We could describe in detail the gang war over territory that is just a block away from the proposed sight and how the proposed development is just another section 8 high rise, the type that they tore down in Cabrini Green.

  13. Hugh-
    Shouldn't there be a PUBLIC NOTICE sign regarding the zoning change outside the McJunkin somewhere? We walked by today and there is not one anywhere to be found on the building.

  14. We should be careful how an "email Target" campagin is presented. While I agree wtih H.Moley that their corporate pull can be put to good use in influencing future zoning/building/retail changes, it might not be in our best interest to scare them away completely by highlighting the worst our neighborhood has to offer (if they actually could be coming). I understand if Target pulls out that it could be one more "slap in the face" of Wilson Yard and the failure of its planning; however, I don't know if anybody would argue that a Target wouldn't be a great step in the right direction for Uptown retail, not to mention that the "powers that be" seem to have a great history of evading blame and repercussions for failed endeavors. It just seems like simultaneously cutting off our nose and shooting ourselves in the foot....

  15. I am sure Target is very aware of what is going on in the neighborhoods.

    This isn't some mom and pop corp.

    I doubt Target is even coming to Wilson yard unless they give them the space for free as well as build out.

  16. "IF Target pulls out" There is no "IF" about it. Target, the theaters, Catholic Charities! They HAVE pulled out

  17. I realize it's unprecedented in the history of Target not to put up some kind of notice that they will placing a store there, but other than that, how do you knownfor sure Target isn't going in there?

  18. "Shouldn't there be a PUBLIC NOTICE sign ... "


    from the written notice:

    " .. please be informed that on or about Septemver 1, 2008, the undersigned will file an application for a change in zoning ... "

    we should expect posted notice on or about tomorrow Tuesday 9/9/08 (five business days minus the Monday 9/1 holiday)

    this is the applicant's responsibility

    please keep an eye out for the sign

    the sign may have a sentence of explanation of the reason for the zoning change


    17-13-0107-C Posted Notice

    When the provisions of this Zoning Ordinance require that “Posted Notice” be provided, the applicant must post a notice sign on the subject property in accordance with the following requirements:

    1. The notice sign must be installed within 5 days of application filing and remain in place until the date of the hearing. ...

    3. The sign must be posted in such a way as to be plainly visible from each roadway or right- of-way abutting the property.

    4. The [posted] notice must include:

    (b) a description of the nature, scope and purpose of the application or proposal;

  19. "The B3 district permits residential dwelling units above the ground floor."

    many people who know anyting about Chicago zoning understand:

    R is residential,

    C is commercial, and

    B is retail on the ground floor, (optionally) residential above

    However, this is no longer true.

    We used to have a zoning, B, to require street-level retail districts, but our aldermen and the developers who sponsor them took it away from us when they re-wrote the zoning code in 2004.

    Now residential is permitted by rights or allowed as a special use, even on the ground floor, in any B zoning.


  20. Cmon guys I'm sure he knows what's going on he just chose not to discuss it with you. Would you give information that you know most people would not like? It's just another layer of filth to add to Uptown.

  21. call me crazy, or maybe too optimistic, but shouldnt we find out what the intended use of the property is before a lynch mob is formed??? Or is the concern that the B3 change could leave the door open to the next owner to do what they wish with the property?

  22. in my judgement a lynch mob is an appropriate response at this time, based on the lack of information, waiting to light our torches serves their purposes

    the applicant and his attorney has had ample opportunities to explain to the community what is going on here in the written notice, signage, and via phone, but has failed at each opportunity

    further, the applicant's attorney's mommy, a local public servant, has a website and e-mail and newsletter capabilities

  23. Other than he is a supporter of the state teasurer and lives at the Waterford, is there any information i.e. other properties, projects etc?

    H.M.- Here's how it works. If a business intends to open at a given sight they provide a letter-of-intent. Target has never provided one. That comes before the signs and the Buy-one-get-one-free crap. Wake up and smell the coffee.

  24. It's important to know if this caller is also someone that received the letter informing them of the zoning change.

    By now, suppose the notice is posted on the building in clear view from the street, then it would become a matter for anyone to address.

    It's that critical time window where the communications are in private and proximity by address only where the most leverage exists that doesn't call for the mob.

  25. "It's important to know if this caller is also someone that received the letter informing them of the zoning change."

    i don't understand this

    the aldermen and the developers who keep them in office don't get to decide who does and who does not have a voice by passing laws about notification radius

    250' is not far

    given the location of the McJunkin the community is extremely lucky a real person got a letter and shared it, kudos to them

  26. Speaking of mob... evidently there were rumors when the d'Agostinos got out of the service station business several years ago. I was told there was a Trib article at the time.

  27. I don't know about rumors... heck, there are always rumors ... but the D'Agostinos own the service station at Broadway and Foster, so they're not out of the gas biz.

    Darn good mechanics.

  28. they also own the Marathon gas station - service station at Touhy & Western

    also they are a City towing contractor

  29. I think the mob accusation was made by Michael Lynch of Michigan Avenue Partners. He filed a civil suit against Mario D'Agostino(brother of Vince) that made some wild claims about the D'Agostino's bringing the mob to his doorstep.

    The mob claims were later ruled as unfounded by the courts, but Lynch was successful in his suit against Mario D'Agostino and his wife.

  30. I recently asked the zoning department what "commerical housing" was and I was told that it is not a term that they have ever heard of. Plus, I went through all of sec 17 of the zoning code and the term "commerica housing" doesn't exist.

    However, a change from B1 to B3 is normal. Note, however, that there are lest restrictions on the use of B3 then a B1.

    If any of you have a copy of the zoning application I would love to see it.


  31. confirming, "commercial housing" is not a land use which appears anywhere in our zoning laws, so it is very unusual choice of phrase for a professional zoning atty to make in an official notice, even for a newbie to the exciting & lucrative business of zoning lobbyist in one's mommy's ward

    also, since Chicago is zoned, a land use which is not specifically allowed is not allowed (for example, "spent noo-clear fuel rod storage" is not in the zoning law, either), so if the app sez the same thing, that's a major rookie blunder

  32. if the zoning app sez "commercial housing" like the notice, I would hope our fine Zoning Dept. would have no choice but to kick it back

  33. " ... a change from B1 to B3 is normal."

    not sure what normal means in Chicago zoning

    except maybe the alderman normally gets what they want, unless it's Ald. Brendan Reilly

    normally when a neighborhood is improving, dare I say gentrifying? getting more residential, new construction & rehabbing going on, you expect zoning to get MORE restrictive not less

  34. but DONT WAIT to check out the application for the zoning change (the meeting will be too late)

    we need to find out if the app also sez "commercial housing" or has more details for the reason for the zoning change

    1. try calling Ald. Banks' office (Chair of the Zoning Committee) downtown in City Hall and ask them politely to fax you copy, hey, it might work

    2. failing that ask if you can stop by pick up a copy, or just stop by and ask

    3. failing that stop by the Zoning Dept in City Hall and ask for a copy

    4. failing that FOIA the committee and/or the dept

    when you are pressed for time start out up&front, friendly charming and personal, FOIA if necessary